Dozens of satos rescued from “Dead Dog Beach”


Lindsey Loechel, Reporter

o the cargo hold of a plane from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York in early August of this year. The dogs were satos, which is the Puerto Rican slang term for street dogs, that had been saved from “Dead Dog Beach” in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.

The beach is actually called Playa Lucia, but is often referred to as the “Dead Dog Beach” by residents because of its awful conditions. Although it used to be a popular spot for beach-goers, the luxuries that drew people in, such as a pool and cabana facilities, are long gone.

Chrissy Beckles is the founder and president of The Sato Project, a nonprofit organization that rescues the dogs from “Dead Dog Beach”. The name this beach holds is very fitting for the environment these satos are struggling to survive in, as most of them are in very bad shape.

Not only is the beach covered in filth and the remnants of a better time, but it is crowded as well. At one point as many as three hundred satos were roaming the beach at once. Some of the dogs found at the beach have wandered there on their own, but others have been abandoned by owners who didn’t want them or couldn’t take care of them.

“Some of the conditions that we’ve found dogs in … there’s no way that they could physically walk here,” Beckles said. “They have been driven here and dumped.”

The targets of the team’s most recent mission were three Jack Russell terriers that lived in the thicket around the beach. The three pups didn’t allow humans to get close, but through patience and experience Beckles’ team was able to lure one of them out with chicken. Every dog the team rescues is given a name, and this particular pup earned the title Bam Bam.

“Give him a couple of weeks, and he’s gonna be livin’ the good life,” Beckles said.

While the Jack Russells were the team’s main target, they don’t pass up a dog in need if they come across another one. One of the team’s volunteers found a pregnant basset hound mix nearby that was close to her delivery date. The temperature on the beach was in the 90s and drinkable water was unavailable, leaving the pregnant basset hound in desperate need for help.

She was given the name Evelyn, and after Beckles and team veterinarian Dr. Bianca Aguirre-Hernandez did a preliminary check, they determined that she must have been someone’s pet. She was healthy and clean, and she wasn’t afraid to be put on a leash.

All the rescued dogs are taken to Candelero Animal Hospital, where Aguirre Hernandez practices, and given a full examination. Most dogs take about ten weeks to rehabilitate.

“Once they learn that not everyone is going to harm them and that they are safe, loved and taken care of, the dogs begin to trust,” Beckles said. “It’s always a beautiful thing to witness.”

While the foundation of the organization is to improve the lives of these rescued dogs, their resources need to be more than compassion and love for animals. Because the average cost to rescue one sato is about $1,000, Beckles needs to have a way to provide the funds for her organization. Beckles is a champion amateur boxer, which is how she raises the necessary money for The Sato Project.  The famous Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn is not only where she trains, but it is also where The Sato Project is based.

Beckles says that more than 1,400 dogs have been saved from “Dead Dog Beach” since she started The Sato Project in 2011. All of the dogs are removed from Puerto Rico and relocated, most of them to the United States.

The ultimate goal of The Sato Project is to improve the lives of as many dogs as possible, making an impact with the motto “we fight so the dogs of Puerto Rico don’t have to.”